Patriots impressed by Flacco's poise


Patriots impressed by Flacco's poise

FOXBORO -- Which quarterback has the postseason's best passer rating?
Joe Flacco. 
Baltimore's signal caller tops the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning with his 102.5 playoff rating. He has the highest yards per attempt average (10.75), most touchdowns (5), fewest interceptions (0), and second-most yards per game (307). 
The numbers from two performances alone don't answer the question of whether or not Flacco is an elite quarterback, but they do mean something. A win over the Patriots in this weekend's AFC Championship would mean something more. 
A fact New England is acutely aware of. 
"He's a great quarterback, I don't care what nobody says about him," Vince Wilfork said Wednesday. "One thing he does is stay poised. No matter how bad things get or how good things are. He is a tough quarterback. He is a competitor and it shows. He is putting his team in good situations. He doesnt turn the ball over much. When they ask him to make plays he has made them. He seems to always have a good game against us. He is a very, very physically and mentally tough football player."
Flacco's Ravens are 1-2 against the Patriots in playoff games. Personally, the quarterback has thrown seven touchdowns to just two interceptions. He bested Tom Brady when their teams met in September, completing 28 of 39 passes for 382 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception in Baltimore's 31-30 win. 
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said there are a few fundamental reasons why Flacco presents such a challenge.
"Id say his ability to number one, not turn the ball over and number two, to make big plays, and number three, to score points, which theyve scored a lot of points this year which is really what the name of the game is. Its about points, not all the other stats that we sometimes like to throw out there. Those are the areas that he's excelled in. And I think if you're scoring points, youre not turning the ball over, then probably playing pretty well."
Wilfork circled back to Flacco's composure, which was exemplified in the quarterback's work last weekend. The Divisional Playoff between the Ravens and Broncos featured four ties. Every time a lead was grasped it was done by the Broncos. But whenever Flacco looked undone, he managed to reign it in. 
There was that three play, 36-second stunner of a scoring drive before halftime that featured passes of 11, 15, and 32 yards. 
Decision making? Check. 
There was that 70-yard touchdown bomb fired to Jacoby Jones that forced overtime. 
Accuracy? Check. Arm strength? Check. 
"No matter how bad it gets, he seems to block everything out and play football and it showed again last week against Denver," said Wilfork. "Throughout the course of the game it wasnt perfect, but he made the throw and they made the catch for him. It said a lot about that football team. 
"He is definitely one of the tougher quarterbacks in this league. He has a big heart and he plays to win."
Winning Sunday? That would be the most convincing vote of confidence Flacco could get. 

Randy Moss: Roger Goodell is 'biggest reason' for NFL's problems

Randy Moss: Roger Goodell is 'biggest reason' for NFL's problems

With the NFL facing more PR issues by the day, Randy Moss has identified what he feels is wrong with a league that can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

In wake of the Josh Brown situation, which saw the NFL blame the King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Office for the lack of initial punishment given to the Giants kicker for domestic violence, Moss said on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown that commissioner Roger Goodell is the league’s biggest problem. 

“[This is] a bad time to show up now, breast cancer awareness month where we’re supporting the women, and then you come up with this Josh Brown, where it doesn’t seem like we are supporting women,” Moss said. “I think the NFL needs to take a deep look. I think the owners are mad, and Roger Goodell, he is the biggest reason to all of this stuff that’s fallen downhill with the NFL. I have to agree with that.”

Brown was initially given a one-game suspension for violating the league’s conduct policy stemming from his 2015 fourth-degree domestic violence charge. On Friday, the 37-year-old was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. 

Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett


Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett

PITTSBURGH – So far this season, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 39 catches, 644 yards and five touchdowns. Making the numbers that much more impressive is the fact the numbers were rolled up with Gronk inactive for two games and fairly useless in another thanks to his hamstring injury.

Will the Steelers slow the roll of Robellus Grennetski?

Hard to imagine. As Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Gronk alone has tuned up the Steelers with 26 receptions for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in six meetings.

Fittipaldo explored the strategies the Steelers defense may unveil Sunday afternoon when the Patriots and Steelers get going. He also pointed out that the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier after a three week layoff and injuries for safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden may put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.

Said Shazier: “They have the tandem they want at tight end. Now they can use tight ends the way they want. You have to respect everyone on the field. Both of them are good blockers, good pass threats and great at running after the catch.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Pittsburgh will alter its approaches.

“We have to be able to play more than one defense,” Butler said. “They’re very good and they’ll pick you apart if they can figure out what you’re doing. We just have to execute the defense more than anything else. If we can do that … that’s been our problem for the most part. Some of the things that went on last week, we missed some things we should have made mentally.”

What “went on last week” was a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been a big-play group so far -- eight sacks and three picks -- nor have they seen a gauntlet of great quarterbacks in the first six games. 

Interestingly, their losses have been to Ryan Tannehill and rookie Carson Wentz, probably the two quarterbacks one would figure Pittsburgh would do best against.
Between a smoking hot Brady and a can’t-be-stopped tight end tandem, there’s probably not a lot Pittsburgh can do aside from hoping for an off day.

Said linebacker Arthur Moats hopefully: “You have to continue to mix it up against (Gronkowski). You can’t give him the same look over and over. He has success on guys like that. If we disrupt him, and rush Brady and speed up his clock, I definitely think that will help out.”

In theory, perhaps. In practice? We’ll see.